Pushing for productivity at Narndee

26 Apr, 2015 01:00 AM
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I would like to start making money from the station, even if we made enough to pay the rates

NOTHING says welcome to station life in the Murchison region than going to your first baiting day or shooting your first wild dog.

For Julie Leaver, these moments of recognition as a new station owner have come thick and fast since she moved into the Narndee homestead with partner Robert Broadhurst late last year.

While Robert grew up in and worked throughout the Wheatbelt, Julie's foray into agriculture began six months ago and her love of the land is continuing to grow.

The 234, 717 hectares of Narndee station covers an area including the Mount Magnet, Yalgoo and Sandstone shires and includes a portion of the Number 1 vermin fence, the original rabbit proof fence and an old camel breeding camp famed for a murder in the early 1900s.

In its hey day, Narndee was a home for sheep grazing and shearing, but like many neighbouring properties, it now runs very few sheep and has a growing wild dog population.

Julie said Narndee was one of several stations she was looking at purchasing in early 2014, but the open space on Narndee set it apart from the others.

The wild dog problem was not news to Julie when researching the region, but with planning and community efforts she believes the region could be home to sheep again.

Robert, who has experience with sheep and wool, having previously worked in shearing sheds and in wool classing, said the long term plan was to re-introduce sheep to Narndee.

"Since we've moved here we've seen a few mobs of sheep on the property, as well as goats," he said.

"This is a 10-year plan that we've got in place and if it works out after a couple of years then I'll come on board as a partner.

"If it's profitable, if we make good money we can retire and then someone like Cody (Rob's grandson) might take over."

Julie said there was also a future for cattle on Narndee, but due to the removal of many internal fences by previous owners, there was a lot of work to do before that could happen.

"This has been my tree change," she said.

"I've gone from working 14 hour days in Perth to pay my house off to here.

"It's amazing the amount of money you can spend here.

"We've been fixing windmills, moving in and fuel has been a big expense.

"I would like to start making money from the station, even if we made enough to pay the rates we would be happy."

As the pair work towards running livestock on Narndee once more, Julie's short term plans include tapping into a lucrative homestay and camping market and harvesting sandalwood via a contract with the government.

Muster for the short term has been put on the back burner as the property has recorded more than 100 millimetres of rain during recent weeks.

This has also hampered efforts for Julie to gain an understanding of her infrastructure as many areas are blocked by water.

Despite this, Julie and Robert do know they have a wild dog problem and are being proactive in their approach.

Not long after they moved in, Julie shot a wild dog "taking a dip" in a trough close to the homestead and said this was a dose of reality for her as a new landowner.

"I couldn't just turn my back, I had to shoot it, they're a real problem and it was on my land," she said.

Following this, the pair has added to the station baiting, by using a locally-based kangaroo shooter and regional dogger plus the services of trained volunteer hunters through the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia Farmer Assist program.

"I've been on a farm my whole life and I can't shoot dogs, it reminds me too much of our dogs, that's when we turned to Farmer Assist," Robert said.

Under this program, Robert has been able to post his property as a job in an online forum and accept applicants who have completed competency accreditation and are committed to a code of conduct.

"We know we've got to do this properly and the best way to do this was get people who are efficient and have animal welfare in mind," he said.

Mr Broadhurst is using an online calendar to roster several groups of shooters onto the property on a two-monthly rotation.

"I think it should work well," he said.

"The good thing is when the shooters come back they know where to go, and if we've got campers they know where not to go.

"With a bit of luck we will be able to work with our dogger Greg on sightings to keep him informed.

"The wild dog problem is something we need to attack from all angles.

"You can't just rely on one thing like baiting or shooting.

"With this method, the baiting and the guys who trap the dingoes tell us where the animals are and the shooters are able to target those areas."

The closing of the final section of the vermin fence will be the icing on the cake for the pair, who support the work of other local station owners, including Challa station's Ashley Dowden.

"We haven't been here long and we haven't been involved in the history, but we trust they know what they're doing," Ms Leaver said.

"The government should be looking after us.

"The State wants increased stock numbers, but they're not helping us.

"They should come up here and see for themselves what it does to us.

"We don't see the dingoes, there's no shortage of water so we now barely see the remnants of the dingo kills.

"We could realise our plans, if that cell fence was finished."

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